Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. 2 I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

3 I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.

The Original Intent

1) What is the mystery of God that Paul announced? (verse 1)

Like dumping out the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and beginning to decode the fragmented pictures to gradually create a whole image, so it was for the first century new Christians.

After thousands of generations of Jewish laws and religious practices that shaped everyday life, studying ancient scrolls of prophecy, and watching Yahweh’s movement through history, finally, finally, the generation of Jews in the first century had a front-row seat to an unveiled mystery. This mystery had been painstakingly woven into the fabric of not only Jewish life, but history itself by the Author of Life.

“[…] to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.” (Ephesians 3:9)

All of it, every thread, pointed to the climax which had now been made plain and evident. Christ was the long-awaited Messiah foretold in the prophecies. (Isaiah 46:9-14) Humanity’s sinfulness had separated us from the holy God since the time of Adam and Eve. (Isaiah 59:2) Ever since, we’ve been waiting for the Redeemer, the One born of a woman who had the divine authority to crush Satan’s head of power and break the tyranny of sin and death. (Genesis 3:15, Colossians 2:14-15)

While we waited, God taught His people who He was, what He was like, what sin looked like in our lives, and how we couldn’t possibly ever be perfect. (Exodus 20, Isaiah 59:9) The Lord raised up Judges to govern His people and point them back to His heart and rhythm of living a life of righteousness, justice, and faithfulness to the Lord’s ways.

But His people rebelled.

Kings were raised up to mirror how God ruled with justice and kind compassion, but the kings failed. The role of Priests was given by God so the people would understand they needed an intercessor between sinful people and holy God, but the priests needed forgiveness for their own sin.

God’s people rebelled, and so did His appointed shepherds.

The Everyday Application

1) What is the mystery of God that Paul announced? (verse 1)

Every piece of the Old Testament puzzle was meant to point forward to a time when a perfect Priest would come as intercessor, when a perfect King would rule every heart (Hebrews 10:16-17), when a perfect God would make a way for His people to be clothed in perfect righteousness so they could be in permanent communion and relationship with Him. (Isaiah 59:20-21)

Finally, oh finally, when the eternally existing, all-powerful God the Son enveloped Himself in human flesh, humbled Himself to descending the birth canal of a virgin woman, and live a perfect life only to be crucified on a criminal’s cross, then, the jigsaw came together. The veiled became unveiled. Every piece fit.

Every prophecy, every law, the line of priests, and the line of kings all were perfectly realized in Christ Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah. Even more grand, this hope of resurrection that suddenly became astonishingly clear was meant not just for the Jews, but for the outsider, the Gentile, as well. (Romans 1:16) The way was made for all peoples, every tribe, and every nation to be made right before God. (Revelation 5:9-10)

The grand mystery, woven even before the beginning of time was now made clear and extended to all. (Ephesians 1:4) Paul was called by God (Ephesians 3:1) to make this newly uncovered mystery proclaimed to all people.

And us, as believers today, in the 21st century? We have the same call on our lives, to make known “Christ and Him crucified” (verse 2) for the “sins of the whole word” (1 John 2:2). Forgiveness and restoration are available to ALL! Mystery made known!

You who have embraced the freedom in Jesus, Go! Make Jesus known! Who will you tell?! (Ephesians 3:10, 2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

The Original Intent

2) Outside of Jesus Himself, Paul holds the title of greatest pastor and missionary; how can he say he didn’t come with brilliance of speech or wisdom and instead came in weakness, fear, and trembling? (verses 1, 3-4)

Consider Paul’s own recorded words about himself, “If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more.” (Philippians 3:4, emphasis mine) From bloodline to righteous acts, to upholding Jewish law to knowing the prophets, to zealously pursuing his view of God, none could compare with Paul. His credentials for “best of the best” were tried and true and everyone knew it.

Despite all of these trophies, Paul’s next words are shocking, “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:7-8)

When Paul looked at Christ, then looked back at his “accomplishments, heritage, and self-made righteousness”, it suddenly all looked like, well, in his words, “dung”. (Philippians 3:8)

Paul understood that if he relied on his “old self-made version of goodness”, he would never be able to accomplish anything of value in God’s kingdom. What made Paul such an astounding pastor and missionary was not Paul’s strengths, but his surrendered weaknesses. The Lord Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

When Jesus said His power “is perfected”, He didn’t mean it wasn’t perfect of its own right, rather, that His power shines the most brilliant, or perfectly, when applied to our weaknesses. When we can step back from something and say, “That was only possible because of God”, it’s coming from a place of absolute realization that, in our own sinfulness, there was no way such a stunning, amazing outcome could have been produced. It’s dumbfounding.

The Everyday Application

2) Outside of Jesus Himself, Paul holds the title of greatest pastor and missionary; how can he say he didn’t come with brilliance of speech or wisdom and instead came in weakness, fear, and trembling? (verses 1, 3-4)

When I compare old flickering shows or fuzzy “home videos” to the technological advances available today, there is no comparison. With a device slim enough to fit in my pocket and intelligent enough to instantly connect me with crystal-clear clarity to my fellow believing sisters on the other side of the world, holding onto old technology is pointless.

When Paul viewed his old life and then looked at Jesus, there was no comparison; everything he had previously boasted in was foolishness.

When barren Elizabeth gave birth to John. When Jonah was swallowed whole then vomited on the shore to be obedient. When the earth was wiped out in totality except for 8 people saved on an ark. When a tax collector became Christ’s disciple. When a Gentile harlot was woven into the Jewish lineage of Christ. And on and on we go through the pages of Scripture and the timeline of the Church. (Acts 2:4)

Jesus changes everything. We cannot save ourselves from sin’s death trap. We cannot muster up enough goodness to just “be” better Christians. The very best we can bring is our mess, our wreckage, and our total surrender. When we submit to Christ’s lordship, every moment of every day, faithfully bringing Him our brokenness, we can be assured that He will prove His strength to be perfect in us in such a way that we will step back and gasp, “Only God!”.

When I keep this mindset in my day, discouragement loses its grip on me. In Jesus, I cannot fail! (Romans 8:31) Flopped dinners, piles of laundry, feeling behind, challenging relationships, financial hardship. All of it is a mess, but bringing my wreckage is the offering Jesus desires.

Praise the Lord we don’t need to clean anything up before coming to Jesus, we just come “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (verse 3), trusting Him to be perfectly strong (verse 4).

The Original Intent

3) How can a leader in God’s kingdom decide to *only* know about Jesus and His crucifixion? Don’t other aspects of truth and wisdom matter? (verses 2 and 4)

Architects design with the specifics of a structure in mind. Gardeners carefully choose seed and soil based on the produce they want to harvest. Even children choose which parent to make requests of based on what the child knows of that parents’ leniencies.

When Paul surrendered himself to Jesus, he, like all true believers, understood there was no such thing as partial surrender. Everything old must be dropped in order to become conformed to the likeness of Christ. (Romans 8:29) Our patterns of living must be completely rewired. (Titus 3:1-5) The sins we once loved must be removed and new garments of love and compassion are to be worn instead. (Colossians 3:5-10) We must train our minds according to truth and stop permitting the peer pressure of culture and sin to feed the way we think. (Romans 12:1-2)

If Paul had approached his missionary trips and his preaching with the methodologies of his old way of life, he would have proved he had not fully surrendered to Christ because he wouldn’t be pointing people to Christ alone as the goal. Paul needed to ascertain the goal of his preaching, of his unveiling of the mystery of God made flesh and crucified for us, and aim for that goal with everything he had inside him.

In verse 5, Paul writes, “so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.” Paul’s success in unveiling the mystery of the gospel and bringing others to know Christ depended on his full surrender to Jesus. In order to be fully surrendered to Jesus, Paul must clear his mind, his thought patterns, his way of living, and unlearn everything about his former life, focusing all of himself onto the lynchpin of the Christian faith, Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection. If this was lost, all was lost.

The Everyday Application

3) How can a leader in God’s kingdom decide to *only* know about Jesus and His crucifixion? Don’t other aspects of truth and wisdom matter? (verses 2 and 4)

It didn’t matter if Paul could draw a crowd of thousands, impress his audience with cleverly crafted sermons, or outwit the Jewish zealots who wanted him dead. If Paul didn’t preach Christ, the Messiah, fulfiller of the prophecies, God made flesh to atone for human sin, who was crucified and took our curse on His cross only to be raised to life never to die again three days later, nothing he did would matter.

Paul labored to surrender in whole to Jesus’ work in him. (Colossians 1:29) He fought to take hold of all that Jesus had for him. (Philippians 3:13-14) The once-famous Saul became the humble Paul who struggled for the mystery of the gospel to be made known, take root in the lives of its hearers, and then produce all the fruits of the Spirit. (Colossians 2:1)

It’s often repeated in Christian ministry circles, “Keep the main thing, the main thing.” Every one of Paul’s letters to the church preach the gospel, the main thing, on repeat. Paul sings it, he prays it, he expounds on it, and his whole being aches for believers to grow up mature in the gospel (Colossians 1:28-29) and for unbelievers to come alive in Jesus, rejecting their sin for good (Philippians 3:18-19).

As I study Paul’s zeal to know nothing but Christ, and Him crucified, I’m urged forward to let go of what doesn’t matter. I want my life to matter, which means I need to live in a constant state of surrender to the only One who matters, Christ. When I saturate myself in God’s Word, marinate in the radical love, kind justice, and gracious compassion of the gospel, Christ effervesces in my life.

In the end, Christ was all Paul wanted. It’s who I want too. May my life be marked, all the more, every day, by knowing Christ!

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